WASHINGTON, May 25, 2015 —A plant-based diet reduces the pain of diabetic neuropathy, according to new research published today in Nutrition & Diabetes by researchers with the Physicians Committee, California State University, East Bay, and the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Neuropathy is a complication of diabetes manifesting as pain, numbness, and other nerve symptoms. The pilot study put 17 adults on a low-fat vegan diet for 20 weeks, with weekly nutrition classes. The researchers found significant improvements in pain, measured by the Short Form McGill Pain questionnaire, the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument physical assessment, and through electrochemical skin conductance in the foot. The participants also lost an average of 14 pounds.
“A dietary intervention reduces the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, apparently by improving insulin resistance” notes Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee. “The same diet also improves body weight and reduces cholesterol and blood pressure.”
Sixty percent of diabetes patients suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is associated with hypertension, obesity, gait disturbances, amputations, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life.
“The dietary intervention is easy to prescribe and easy to follow,” says Cameron Wells, M.P.H., R.D., acting director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Steel-cut oats, leafy greens, and lentils are widely available at most food markets and fit well into most budgets.”
According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, patients who receive just 5.5 extra minutes of nutrition counseling from their primary care physician lose five pounds, reduce saturated fat intake, and improve LDL cholesterol.
More than 29 million Americans have diabetes. One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in his or her life.
The average lifetime cost to treat type 2 diabetes is $85,200, half of which is spent on diabetes complications.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.